In an editorial, Ward E District 6 Democratic Committeeman Gary Spingarn lays out how Jersey City is paying triple and should not be doing so to make the $300M SciTech Scity project work.
Years after initial press releases, a groundbreaking ceremony has finally happened for SciTech Scity. The promise is to bring a bustling campus that will include all sorts of research, innovation, education, and commerce all in the name of STEM.
While Jersey City is in the throes of a public education crisis, there is a cutting-edge STEM school in the works. Though many investments and donations have brought this moment forward, Jersey City’s contributions must not be ignored.
In fact they are coming in three ways, all courtesy of the taxpayers. In return the city is promised a cutting-edge program for ~260 students, while 30,000 others contend with critically underfunded schools.
One way the city is paying is through tax levies to the county school system. This school will be under the control of Hudson County, not Jersey City.
All municipalities in Hudson make such payments and Jersey City is no exception. This is all standard operation, but the current administration decided to make extra efforts.
Everything starts with the land. The 30 acres was under the domain of Jersey City and had to be handed over for a price.
The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA), whose executive leadership was appointed by Mayor Fulop, sold the land at a fraction of market value to the corporation behind this project.
Millions in land value were handed from public to private interest, that within itself is a massive contribution.
As mentioned in recent press, Jersey City will be paying $2 million a year in direct financing for a 30-year term. This is a county school, yet Jersey City is the only municipality making such a direct payment.
In exchange, 60% of the student population is promised to Jersey City, yet nothing within the resolution includes any sort of binding agreement.
Many residents gave public comments to challenge this resolution while LSC CEO Paul Hoffman and Mayor Fulop called in to voice support.
The $2 million pales in comparison to the other contributions, but the public outcry was so fierce because this resolution coincides with a recent $100 million shortfall for Jersey City public schools.
Parents seeking special needs education for their children commonly need to hire private professionals or find a school in New York. School pipes still produce water with elevated levels of lead.
There are over 30,000 students forced to do more with less yet $2 million is readily available for what may be ~260 students.
The current administration has put forth a message of triumphant fiscal responsibility, not raising taxes in the face of pandemic. Mayor Fulop has been tough on the BOE, repeatedly saying that the city will not hand them a “blank check.”
When it comes to this county school however, the city is willing to get creative and repeatedly burden taxpayers. All of this in the name of investing in the future and making Jersey City a “destination city.”
When it comes down to the public policy of this administration over the past few years, the goal lies in transforming Jersey City. Luxury housing developers, downtown pedestrian plazas, Pompidou in Journal Square, and now SciTech Scity are all part of a vision.
The merits of such development and planning may be debated but nothing negates the reality of residents continually being priced out of gentrifying neighborhoods.
While many faced coercion tactics from landlords, the city was painfully slow to distribute federal rental assistance. The administration is clearly capable of fiscal heavy lifting but only for certain priorities.
The working class along with 30,000 children simply don’t fit into the larger picture, they are an afterthought compared to students and residents that have yet to arrive in Jersey City.
Now these decisions come from democratically elected officials, it’s their prerogative if not their duty to execute a vision. There is an upcoming election for mayor, city council, and BOE in Jersey City, so I have a question for readers.
After Nov 2nd, will the future of Jersey City include you?